Giant Dreams, Midget Abilities

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David Sedaris writes about his experience taking guitar lessons in “Giant Dreams, Midget Abilities” after his father decided that he and his younger sisters should start a family music group. However, Sedaris has no desire to learn how to play guitar. His desire lies within singing jingles in the voice of Billie Holiday. Sedaris’ desire to sing in the voice of Billie Holiday is probably closely related to his sexual orientation, being gay, and his father’s passion for jazz music.

There is an implication of femininity in Sedaris’ desire to mimic Billie Holiday’s voice. Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer whose career took off in the 1930s. Some would find it peculiar as to why any young boy would want to imitate the voice of one who was generally regarded as one of the greatest female jazz vocalists. Sedaris first introduces his homosexuality in the first essay of his book, Me Talk Pretty One Day, when he talks about the boys in his speech therapy class: “None of the therapy students were girls. They were all boys like me who kept movie star scrapbooks and made their own curtains…Baking scones and cupcakes for school janitors, watching Guiding Light with our mothers, collecting rose petals for use in a fragrant potpourri: anything worth doing turned out to be a girl thing. In order to enjoy ourselves, we learned to be duplicitous. Our stacks of Cosmopolitan were topped with an unread issue of Boy’s Life or Sports Illustrated…” (p. 9) Since society usually sees hobbies such as baking and collecting flowers as domestic and thus feminine as opposed to more masculine hobbies such as sports, Sedaris kept his hobbies discreet by masking them with hobbies that were more socially acceptable for boys.

In “Great Dreams, Midget Abilities”, Sedaris eventually lets go of his fantasy of singing in the voice of Billie Holiday when his guitar teacher, Mr. Mancini, takes offense to his a cappella version of an Oscar Mayer commercial, calling him a...
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